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'Under separate cover'

Posted by Smokey Stover on December 08, 2006

In Reply to: 'Under separate cover' posted by Tintageu on December 08, 2006

: 'Under separate cover'

: Many thanks, R.Berg, but I worded my question wrongly. I really wanted to know the history of the phrase e.g. what does the cover refer to?

: Cheers,

: Tintageu

I would expect "the cover" to refer to whatever enclosed, or covered, the letter. I did not find "separate cover" in the OED; the closet I came was this.
" d. The wrapper of a letter or of any postal packet. spec. in Philately, an envelope, etc., bearing a stamp, postmark, or label of particular historical or commemorative interest; esp. first day cover (see quot. 1950).
Hence, to address to (a person) under cover to (another). In a general sense including an envelope (which is a special kind of cover); but spec. used of a wrapper cut and folded differently from an envelope, as in the 'Mulready covers'.
1748 RICHARDSON Clarissa Wks. 1883 IV. 374, I acknowledge her goodness to me, with a pencil only, on the cover of a letter sealed up. 1798 JANE AUSTEN Northang. Abb. II. xiii. 191 Direct to me at Lord Longtown's..under cover to Alice. 1804 PITT in G. Rose's Diaries II. 75, I send this under Hammond's cover to the Postmaster. 1876 World V. 11 The task of addressing the covers to the subscribers does not devolve upon him [the Editor]."

It is possible that the concept long antedates the first example of "cover" given here. But I can't imagine how you would find the first person who
used the phrase "separate cover."